Castle Donington 1st XV 19-33 Ripley Rhinos 1st XV
Ripley ensured a merry Christmas with their first win of the season at Castle Donington in this friendly
Rhinos made the journey down to Castle Donington after the sides sorted out this friendly. Initially, both teams looked to be short of a full XV but the addition of half a dozen Woodhouse Giants to the Ripley squad ensured a full fifteen-a-side game with the visitors lending Castle Donington Sam Musgrove, Zeique Robinson and Dave Trubee.
It was a cold afternoon but otherwise perfect for rugby and the play see-sawed through the first ten minutes. The scrums were a strong battle all game, with the Rhino front row of props Dave Arrowsmith and Shaun Underwood ably supporting hooker Craig Culshaw, the power coming from lock forwards Gage Stevenson and Scott Randall. The maroon lineout also worked well with openside Tony Ratcliffe soaring to claim catches.
Castle Donington had a strong pack and a quick fly half but Rhinos had the pacier backline otherwise and needed to work the opportunities to give their speedsters the ball in space.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring with sometime Rhino Luke Heanue scoring for the try for them, which was then converted. The game continued to be tight, with Evans probing the Donington defensive line but his thrusts being repelled. Both sides were falling foul of the referee at the tackle situation; failing to release the tackled player, which broke up the continuity somewhat.
Ripley drew level when No. 8 Karl Ickeringill powered off a scrum and linked well with blindside Simon Brown. Although tackled short, quick ball from scrum half Jon Doughty saw inside centre Craig Worboys dive over to score his third try of the season, with Evans converting.
Castle Donington continued to look strong in possession but good tackling from full back Rich Brown and wingers Danny Dykes and Steve Carroll helped keep them out. The final play of the half saw the visitors ship the ball through the backline to give outside centre Joe Ducker enough room to round the Donington winger and go in to score and send Ripley into half-time 12-7 ahead.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first; a tight contest with both sides having periods of possession and looking threatening. Castle Donington quickly evened the scores when their elusive fly half scored a try in the corner.
The maroon backs began to show they had the greater stamina for running at pace than their hosts and broken field play gave Ducker a chance to show his class and blaze in from fifty metres, with Evans converting. Castle Donington levelled it again after a lineout catch and drive put Heanue on for his second.
Rhinos then got the key score from turnover ball, shipping it wide again and giving Ducker the chance to again burn off the cover defence and score his hat-trick, with Evans converting. The home side didn't have too much left in the tank, especially when they lost their fly half and an attempt to spread the ball wide saw it being turned over and the final score of the game coming from Ripley second row Stevenson powering in under the posts, with Evans slotting his fourth conversion as his team ran out 33-19 winners.
This was a good game, enjoyed by both sets of players and the spectators alike and showed the benefits of the rugby community working together to ensure entertaining matches can be played. Star man for Ripley was outside-centre Joe Ducker whose pace and finishing saw him win the BAB Plumbing & Heating man of the match award from his team mates. Ripley will hope to take this winning form into their next game in January 2015.